Much like parenting, the primary purpose of education is to prepare young people to become productive, positive society members. As a teacher, this means you’re tasked with not only relaying knowledge and data but also arming youth with the necessary tools they’ll need to lead others and spread effective positivity. 

Research done by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has shown that the skills required for successful leadership are the same as the whole child teaching approach that emphasizes social-emotional learning (SEL). These skills include responsible decision-making, social awareness, self-awareness, relationship skills, and self-management.

One way to teach students what it’s like to lead others is by role-playing. Assign your classroom into groups and have them work on an assignment. Assign one of the top leadership styles to each group, ranging from authoritarian to laissez-faire approach. By the end of the project, poll the groups about the overall experience under that leadership style. Giving everyone in the group a voice will empower them to speak up for themselves, a tool they will need regardless of industry or position. Once all groups have shared their presentations and discussed leadership types, poll the classroom about the most effective leadership style, pointing out the different metrics of a successful company, such as a company with a high profit-margin but significant employee turnover. Get feedback about which metric defines success the most.

Another way to teach students leadership skills is by letting them take the reins in course planning. Encourage an open forum on lesson plans and goal-setting to teach students how to be consistent and collaborative. Revisit classroom goals throughout the year to discuss how the students’ feel about classroom progress. Have them keep a schedule that breaks down a 24-hour day in their life to learn time management. 

Another distinction that is important to make is that leadership is not about popularity. Some students will emerge naturally as the classroom leader while being too young to wield their power. This is the perfect moment for teachers to step in and use that student as an example of authentic leadership. Emphasize the facets of leadership that matter, such as taking responsibility, encouraging others’ success, being hardworking, a good listener, willing to help others, and honesty.

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